It has probably been playing on your mind since before you broke up for maternity leave – at some point you will have to consider when or whether you are going back to work. Some people know for definite that they do or don’t want to go back while, for others, it’s a very tough decision with many factors coming in to play – finances, childcare, working hours, logistics of the commute…there are so many things to consider and try to find a way around.
Whatever you decide to do, whether you put your career on hold and become a full-time mum or whether you go back to work full or part-time is a very individual choice based on your wishes, your family situation and your needs. However, one thing that tends to be consistent is that, whatever you decide, it comes with a fair amount of guilt.
Many mothers (or fathers) who have chosen, with their partner’s support, to stay at home experience feelings of guilt because they’re not bringing in an income. The family has most likely had to tighten its belt due to the reduction in earnings or reliance on one salary. Conversely, in families where both parents work, there are often feelings of guilt when children are dropped off with childminders or at nursery and picked up late after a stressful day. The reduced ‘family time’ and rushed breakfasts or skipped bedtime stories cause pangs of regret. Some parents, although they love their child deeply, find being with baby 24/7 very difficult in which case going back to work can be a bit of a relief – which often, again, triggers feelings of guilt! Whichever way you jump, it’s a choice that you’ll likely question repeatedly and, of course, the grass often seems greener.
If you are going back to work, there’s a further big decision to make – what do you do with your little one while you’re there? Some people are lucky enough to have local grandparents who are willing and able to step in and help out with childcare. For others, it’s a choice between childminders or nursery, and again knowing whether you’ve made the right decision isn’t easy. It has to fit into the logistics of your day as well as being somewhere you can happily leave your child knowing they will be well cared for and looked after whilst you work. Again, finances play a huge part in this choice – sometimes the cost of childcare can almost outweigh the benefit of going to work which many find off-putting, while for others the need to hold on to that ‘adult’ part of their life and continue to be the person they were pre-children is more important than the financial motivation.
You may find that if you return to work you feel like you’re two totally different people, fulfilling separate roles – at home and at work – each day. It’s a very strange feeling which can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’ve had a long time away from the workplace.
Maybe this is the perfect opportunity for a total change? If you weren’t enamoured with your previous position and have been thinking about taking your career in a different direction, this could be the ideal opportunity to make a change that works in your favour. Many parents choose to retrain, set up their own business or take on a franchise. There has been a rise of ‘mum entrepreneurs’ in recent years – parents finding ways of following their personal interests, making the most of their talents, and earning in a way that fits around family life.
Whatever you choose to do it’s a very personal decision and, although it’s important to take advice from a financial perspective it’s a decision that is ultimately up to you and your partner. If you feel like others are judging you for the choices you make then don’t worry. Every family is different and parents have needs as well as children. It’s important for all of you to be happy, however you achieve it.
If you feel like you need some more information to help you to make this momentous decision, the Money Advice Service website offers free and impartial advice on your rights: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/know-your-rights-when-you-go-back-to-work-after-having-a-baby
How did you feel about going back to work? Did you choose to stay at home or take your career in a different direction? Have others praised or criticised your choices? We’d love to hear about your experiences…
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